A quartet of former high school standouts are back home playing soccer in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
The KC Courage women’s soccer team has played five games this season and has a roster with a wide range of players for coach Aaron Wiessenfluh.
The Kansas City resident, who resides in the Park Hill School District, took over as the head coach this season after two years as the assistant coach. He is the third coach for the Courage since owner Wendy Loque, who built a team after the KC Shock folded.
Wiessenfluh’s assistant coach this season is former head coach Katie LaForge, who is currently the head coach of Avila University.
A tryout for this year’s team was held in May and the roster featured a half of dozen that returned, while new players were added included Drake’s Alison Walls and Lindenwood’s Bailey Bologna.
A year ago, Walls was leading Park Hill to a Class 4 state title, while Bologna was a key piece on a Platte County team that reached the district finals.
The roster that Wiessenfluh comprised features a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Gracely Briley, who plays at Kansas. Also playing is Courtney Harrison of Ray-Pec, who will be a senior in the fall. A defender on the roster is Melissa Blount, an assistant coach at Johnson County (Kan.) Community College, who is 43. Another player is Ann Murphy, who is a Kansas City (Mo.) police officer.
Weissenfluh’s daughter, Ayana, just wrapped up her playing career at Park Hill last month and is on the roster before heading off to Feather River Community College in Quincy, Calif., in the fall.
Another former Trojan on the roster is Jenna Winebrenner, who isn’t playing in games as she recovers from elbow surgery. She plays at Notre Dame.
“The talent level is high,” said Aaron Weissenfluh, who also coaches soccer at Shawnee Mission East and for the KC Fusion club team. “We are starting to build a brand and hopefully enhance things.”
The Leavenworth, Kan., native is looking at a three-year plan to have the Courage ‘championship ready’ in a league that features six teams in the Heartland Conference.
Weissenfluh has been coaching soccer since he was 14 years old, guiding a fifth/sixth grade team in his hometown. He also coached t-ball and one of his pupils was Wayne Simien, who became a standout basketball player at Kansas years later.
His love for soccer came from a book about Pele when he was younger but his athletic ability led to him running at Fort Hays State, Highland Community College and Kansas State before injuries ultimately ended his athletic career. He then ended up back home in Leavenworth, graduating from Saint Mary.
He has guided the Courage to a 2-3 record so far as the season is close to wrapping up what he calls a rebuilding year.
The opportunity for college players to stay in game shape heading into the fall season is a key component.
Weissenfluh communicates regularly with the coaches of the players.
Walls was one of the players that didn’t know what she would do this summer as she ‘aged’ out of her former competitive traveling team. The WPSL is providing a chance to work with new teammates and keep a competitive fire.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to play somehwere outside of Drake,” said Walls, who was named to the All-MVC Freshman team and honorable mention All-MVC her freshman season last fall. “This is cool, there are players from different countries and different universities. We all get to connected for the summer. My coach (Drake’s coach Lindsey Horner), her thing was getting playing time and that is hard to find a place to play once you are done with club and actually play soccer, not just train.
“This helps my game and helps all of us, individually, by playing with different players. My coach kept telling me to learn from a different coach and get different direction and Aaron has done an awesome job. I enjoy playing and seeing things in a different way. It is cool to play with other players and work on different elements of your game instead of being with the same teammates always. I’m thrilled playing for the Courage.”
Walls has had the chance to play against some of her current Drake teammates in the WPSL.
The Courage played their first three games at Rockhurst and will play the last home games on June 22 and 23 at Kansas City (Kan.) Community College against St. Louis Lions and Fire and Ice, respectively.
The WPSL started in California and has been a proving ground for some of the best players in the United States. The USA national team — currently rolling through competition at the women’s World Cup — has more than a dozen players that competed in the WPSL.